Tuesday was a big day for Major League Baseball as two big name players found new homes.
With player transactions heating up, and winter meetings just around the corner, it’s a good time to look at the best 10 remaining free agents and predict where they’ll wind up for the 2016 season.
Five pitchers make this list, as well as four outfielders and a first baseman.
- Zack Greinke, Starting Pitcher
Zack Greinke was a Cy Young Award candidate practically all year in 2015 in his third season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA.
He has improved in wins each year with the Dodgers and continues to prove that he is an ace pitcher.
Greinke made predicting where he will go very easy when he said Tuesday that he has narrowed down his choices to either the Dodgers or San Francisco Giants.
Both of the choices surprise me a bit because I thought that Greinke would want to be the outright ace on whatever team he chose to sign with this offseason. And obviously with Clayton Kershaw leading the Dodgers rotation, and Madison Bumgarner front lining the pitching staff for the Giants, that won’t be the case.
What I believe will ultimately make Greinke’s decision, will be which team gives him the best chance to win a World Series.
As of right now the Giants have a far better chance at winning a World Series in the near future than the Dodgers do. San Fran is better coached and has more good young players – Joe Panik, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.
Prediction: Greinke signs a 6-year deal with the Giants.
- Jason Heyward, Outfielder
Jason Heyward had a lot of hype surrounding him when he broke into the league in 2010, homering on the first at bat of his career, being selected as an All-Star and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting.
He hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, though he has shown flashes of his super star potential throughout his six-year career with the Braves and Cardinals.
2012 was his best season for power, hitting a career-high 27 home runs and driving in a career-best 82 runs. This past season he got off to a good start but quieted down as the season progressed, but it was his best season in terms of hitting for average.
Defensively Heyward is very good. He has won three Gold Glove Awards and has a very strong arm.
Being that Heyward is just 26-years-old, he has the best chance of the big-named free agents to get a very long-term deal.
Prediction: Heyward signs a 7-year deal to stay with the Cardinals
- Chris Davis, First Baseman
As far as position players go, Orioles slugger Chris Davis is the free agent that has the biggest risk-reward factor.
The risk is that Davis is a guy who doesn’t hit for an extraordinarily large average, chases bad pitches and strikes out a lot. The reward, however, is that Davis is capable of hitting 35-plus home runs a season while driving in right around 100 runs.
Davis is a big target at first base, and showed this past season that he possesses the ability to play the outfield if needed.
As an Orioles fan Davis is exciting to watch because every big swing has the potential to hit a moon shot home run. But, like I mentioned earlier, each big swing also has a decent chance of coming up empty and sending him back to the dugout.
By trading for Mark Trumbo, and knowing the spending history of the Baltimore franchise, it doesn’t look promising at all that Davis will be returning to Baltimore.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been most rumored with Davis, but since I already have the Cards signing another one of the Top 10 Free Agents, I’m not sure they’ll have the money for both big contracts.
With that being said, I don’t have a great guess as to where he’ll go.
My best guess is he will go to Houston after the Astros trade Chris Carter.
Prediction: Davis signs a 5-year deal with the Houston Astros
- Yoenis Cespedes, Outfielder
For reasons that I don’t understand, Yoenis Cespedes hasn’t been able to find a long-term home in the MLB since arriving from Cuba in 2012. Since then he has played for four teams.
Cespedes is a big-time bat with a cannon for his arm in the outfield, and he showed this season that he quickly has an effect on whatever team he plays for after hitting 17 home runs and driving in 44 runs in less than half a season with the New York Mets.
2015 was his best overall season, especially considering that he split time between two teams.
I want to say that he has found a home in Queens with the Mets, however, he may be slightly out of their price range, however, not signing him to a new deal will most likely mean New York regresses in 2016.
I think not wanting to regress too much next season will be enough reason for the Mets front office to give Cespedes a good deal.
Prediction: Cespedes signs a big 4-year deal with the Mets.
- Justin Upton, Outfielder
Younger brother of Melvin Upton, Justin Upton was poised to be a big power bat when drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 2005 draft.
He’s made an All-Star team three times, including last year, however, his overall production throughout his career has left some to be desired, especially in RBI.
With that being said, though, he is only 28 so he has time to improve.
Having played in the National League for his whole career thus far, this may be a good opportunity to switch over the American League, where he can provide services as both an outfielder and a designated hitter.
The Astros are shopping Chris Carter, so that could be a possible landing spot, but the outfield spots are filled in Houston, so that may not be the best fit.
The Rangers could also use an outfielder, as could the Orioles and a few other AL teams.
If he stays in the NL, though, St. Louis may be in need of an outfielder if Jason Heyward decides to leave.
Prediction: Upton signs a 6-year deal with the New York Yankees
- Alex Gordon, Outfielder
One of the best left fielders in the game, Alex Gordon has played his entire career with Kansas City Royals.
Gordon has been selected as an All-Star each of the last three years and is a four-time Gold Glove Award winner.
Prior to a groin injury this past year, Gordon has been a relatively healthy player who averages 19 home runs and 75 RBI per season.
Given that he’s 31-years-old, Gordon shouldn’t be expecting a contract that lasts longer than five years.
He’s spent his whole career in Kansas City, and with the Royals coming off back-to-back trips to the World Series, I don’t think he’ll be leaving Kauffman Stadium.
Prediction: Gordon signs a 5-year deal with the Royals
- Johnny Cueto, Starting Pitcher
After having a tremendous 2014 campaign, Johnny Cueto had a very sub-par year this past season.
Cueto was a combined 11-13, with a 3.44 ERA between the two teams he pitched for in 2015, including being just 4-7 with an earned run average nearing five with the Kansas City Royals.
He saved face though in the postseason, winning two out of his three decisions, and pitching nine strong innings in Game 2 of the World Series.
In my opinion Cueto is going west, and will probably sign with one of two teams in California.
I think he’ll either sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants, whichever team Greinke does not sign with.
Prediction: Cueto signs a 5-year deal with either the Dodgers
- Wei-Yin Chen, Starting Pitcher
The Taiwan native has been a model of consistency for the Baltimore Orioles since coming to America in 2012.
Wei-Yin Chen has somehow managed to be a contact pitcher in a very hitter-friendly Camden Yards and get good results.
This past season for the O’s Chen’s strikeouts went up while earned runs went down.
Chen is not an ace, but he’s a client of Scott Boras and, given what Jordan Zimmermann is scheduled to get paid Monday in his new contract with the Tigers, Chen should be looking at a big pay day when he decides to sign on the dotted line.
With Boras as his agent, and little noise as of late surrounding the 30-year-old left hander, it’s hard to predict where he’ll wind up.
I don’t think it will be with Baltimore, though. My best guess is he lands with either team in the state of Missouri.
Prediction: Chen signs a 4-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals
- Jeff Samardzija, Starting Pitcher
Jeff Samardzija can never seem to catch a good break.
He started his career with the Cubs when they were bad. H was then traded to Oakland two years ago and was part of the A’s downfall that cost them the AL West title and ultimately got them knocked out in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and he had a below-average season last year with the White Sox.
Despite his history, though, Samardzija is a good pitcher than has shown in the past he can help teams win ball games.
Samardzija will probably be a Plan B for some teams, like the Cubs, who will be going after the three aces – Price, Greinke and Cueto. But for teams with a little less money to spend he is a good option.
As of Tuesday the Cubs have no shot to acquire either Price or Zack Greinke, and Johnny Cueto doesn’t fit the Joe Maddon mojo in my opinion.
Prediction: Samardzija signs a 2-year deal with the Chicago Cubs
- Darren O’Day, Relief Pitcher
There aren’t many pitchers like Darren O’Day – a submarine pitcher with good command of all his pitches who is lights out coming out of the bullpen.
O’Day is the best relief pitcher on the open market, so he will be able to commend a bit higher of a contract than he maybe would’ve a few years ago.
Since arriving in Baltimore in 2012 O’Day has never lost more than three decisions and in three out of his four seasons in Baltimore has had a WHIP under 1.000. His strikeout rate went way up this past season as he K’d 82 batters this year, nearly double the amount of hits he gave up.
O’Day has been rumored with a number of teams, however, Tuesday is was reported by mlbtraderumors.com that Baltimore, which until this point had been quiet on the O’Day front, gave him a “strong push”. (link)
He has had his biggest success playing for Buck Showalter, and I think he will continue to pitch in the Charm City for a few more years.
Prediction: O’Day signs a 3-year deal with Baltimore